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David Ohannessian, 1884-1952

The Armenian potter David Ohannessian, whose tiles decorate the Rockefeller Museum, was born in a small village in eastern Anatolia (Turkey) in 1884. At the age of fourteen he joined a pottery workshop in Kutahya and within a short time became its owner. Ohannessian produced tiles and vessels and renovated buildings, some of them historical sites, in Turkey, Egypt, and Saudia Arabia.

During the First World War, Ohannessian and his family were exiled to Syria. It was in Aleppo that he met the British diplomat Sir Mark Sykes, who was instrumental in bringing him to Palestine in 1918 to renovate the tiles of the Dome of the Rock. The ceramic workshop he established on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem was called "Dome of the Rock Tiles. "It produced various types of ceramics and provided tiles for churches, cemeteries, and public buildings, among them Government House and, of course, the Rockefeller Museum. Ohannessian continued to work in Jerusalem until 1948, after which he relocated to Beirut, where he died four years later.

The tiles produced by Ohannessian for the Rockefeller Museum are the most complicated of all his works, owing to the use of the cuerda seca ("dry line") technique. Their special designs do not appear on any of his other tiles.


David Ohannessian, 1940s

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